Contemplating Character: Drawings & Oil Sketches from Jacques-Louis David to Lucian Freud


Episode 24: Today I chatted with Jerry Smith of the Museum of Fine Arts in  St. Petersburg, Florida. We talked about the Contemplating Character exhibition they have going on until May 29th.


Vanni Rossi (Italian, 1894-1973), Self Portrait Smoking (1920) Oil on canvas. Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson

Contemplating Character explores the evolution of portraiture from the late eighteenth century to the contemporary, reflecting the many styles and movements during this wide expanse of time. The 150 works encompass artist self-portraits by the likes of Gustave Dore, Adolf von Menzel, Edouard Vuillard, Dora Maar (one of Pablo Picasso’s partners), and even Alfred Hitchcock (a line drawing of his famous profile). Others include portraits of other artists, family members and friends, and famous people, among them a rare, early profile of George Washington and another of author Oscar Wilde.

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (British, 1899-1980. Self-Portrait Profil (about 1960). Pen and ink on paper. Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson

The collection focuses on rare portraits, many capturing the deeper personality of the subjects. Lucian Freud, for example, is known for his penetrating portraits, and there are even two drawings by the legendary cartoon artist R. Crumb.


Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922-2011. Peter Watson (about 1945) Black crayon on paper. Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson


Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (British, 1899-1980) Self-Portrait Profile (about 1960) Pen and Ink on Paper Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson



Martha Miller (American, born 1954) The Artist’s Daughter 1987 Pastel on paper Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson